Someone makes an insulting and discriminatory comment to or about you at work. Maybe it’s about your race, gender or sexual orientation. You’re hurt, and you speak up for yourself and tell them how wrong it was. They tell you that they were just joking.
This is a very common excuse. The truth, though, is that people often mean the things they say, even when they claim they are in jest. They just don’t want to own up to what they said, and claiming it was a joke gives them the ability to act like they’re not the type of person who would intentionally hurt someone. They claim that they are not mean or vindictive. They say they’re just trying to be funny. See how they try to turn things around?
Worse yet, using this tactic can sometimes make you feel like you’re the bad guy. They may tell you that it’s a joke and that you clearly are too sensitive or just don’t have a sense of humor. They may say you’re taking it too seriously. They’ll act like you made this in to a big deal when it really wasn’t.
Make no mistake: What they said was wrong, and they likely know it. They’re just trying to get out of it in any way that they can. This is similar to saying “no offense” and then insulting someone. It doesn’t matter what you say about the comment. If that “joke” was mean and discriminatory, it still is, even when they claim it was a joke.
Comments like this can create a hostile work environment, and workers need to know what steps they can take within their workplace to put an end to it. It’s also wise to know your legal options and when it’s a good idea to consult an attorney.